Good Intentions: Lace Curtain Interviewed


Dave West is rather deadpan. It’s not surprising considering his background in punk, a private secondary education, the resulting smarts not to bother with tertiary education and an upbringing in rural Western Australia. That’s where he is at the present moment, talking over a shifty Skype connection, switching computers, while staying at his parent’s house in the remote town of Kondinin (“it’s spelt k-o-n-d-i-n-i-n”). It’s a region on the wheatbelt, east of Perth, that can be oppressively hot in summer and is probably better known for its disappointing Wave Rock in Hyden nearby.

At 31, West has spent a large chunk of his adulthood overseas. San Francisco has been his home for the most part, recording for the likes of DIY punk three-piece Grass Widow and putting out music under his various projects, including the broody post-hardcore of Rank/Xerox and derelict pop of Rat Columns. He’s worked with lo-fi garage performer Ty Segall while subsisting off a job at “a beautiful mid-century ceramics store”, among other things. But in leaving that behind and not yet deciding where he’ll end up, West says he’s currently in Australia to enjoy “the joy of sun and warm weather” before setting off on another US tour with synth-punk band Total Control, of which he’s become a permanent fixture since filling in on bass in 2011. Some Rank/Xerox and Rat Columns shows in Europe to follow.

Two other TC members, Mikey Young and James Vinciguerra, make up the rest of Lace Curtain. Together, they produce an askew amalgamation of their fractured conception of electronic music, with a punk sensibility. Their first track ‘Good Intentions’, which came out as part of a self-titled EP on DFA around the time this interview happened, resulted from an offhanded composition at West’s house in San Francisco during a Total Control tour, with Young mixing and adding to it remotely. From there the trio was born. Since then, they’ve had a second EP release Falling/Running on even more impressive NY label Mexican Summer, home to other askew noise and EDM acts like Pete Swanson and Daniel Lopatin’s Software imprint, which includes Lopatin’s own Oneohtrix Point Never, Blanck Mass and Slava.

There’s an element of conscious Luddism and coarseness to these acts, that still dwell in an ideal of a pre-internet approach to their work, even when they’re as reliant on it as anyone else. The first DFA signing precipitated via email and West tells me, if I want to know what Lace Curtain is supposed to mean, “a quick search of the internet could yield that information”. All I found was a pejorative term for socially mobile Italian or Irish-Americans, as well as a less sanitary one involving Swiss cheese and cunnilingus on urbandictionary.com. In an email, Vinciguerra tells me they use the term for a specific reason that has nothing to do with how it was used “in that movie with leo di cap and jack nicholson”. That movie is The Departed and its meaning would be the former. Infer from that what you will and imagine the following exchange with the lilting tone of sarcasm…

How did the DFA release happen? It feels so unlikely.

Yet so deserved.
Well, everyone knows everyone. The Internet’s omnipresent, you know. I think that they just Googled our individual surnames and it just came up and then they got in touch with our blogs. I think they came to see Total Control play in New York and so we met them and I think James just got in touch with one of the DFA dudes, who’s not James [Murphy of LCD Soundsystem]. We sent him a song and he liked it, so we sent some more. I think James and the DFA camp are pen pals.

‘Good Intentions’ was the track you released as a single and it was the one I liked the most but it’s the most different from the other three.
That’s good. Well, it’s not really the single. Do you mean the one that they put on the Internet so you could hear it?

That’s probably because it’s the shortest one. That’s a good song though.

It was you and James that recorded that at home in San Francisco, right?
We recorded that and then Mikey added some stuff later on.

So you did it together and then Mikey did it remotely from Philip Island, or wherever he is?
[laughs] Yeah. James and I where in a room together and we just did it together in my old house, in the sunset, in San Francisco. We were just hanging out and we did some tracks. It was really quick. We just tossed it off. What you can hear is just one take of everything. It was really impromptu and Mikey mixed it. While he was mixing, he added some little sparkles.

What kind of equipment were you using to record?
On that song we just used an old eight-track. I bought it off a guy in Oakland. Where was he… he was out near Mills College in Oakland; the famous feminist women’s college. He had once jammed with Helios Creed from Chrome. Uh huh. And once he partied with a guy from Minimal Man. He told me a great story about this guy from Minimal Man jumping through a window. Also, he used the reel-to-reel to make his own avant-garde take on Indian-influenced percussion.

Is that what made you buy the recorder?
That really pushed me over the edge, you know. If you listen really closely, at the end of ‘Good Intentions’ you can hear some real Indian avant-garde tabla music. Crank it up.

What led you to take this stylistic direction with Lace Curtain?
I think it’s just pure circumstance. Also because we already are involved in things that are more rock n roll-based, we did kind of decide to do something electronic but it wasn’t heavily conceptualised. I mean, there’s guitar in there.

You’ve always been quite eclectic with the music that you do.
That’s kind of true.

Whalehammer, Rat Columns, Rank Xerox, Burning Sensation… they’re all quite different from each other.
That’s true. I guess I tend to spend a shorter amount of time on more things, rather than more time on a single thing, which I regret now.

Do you think it’s a shame? It’s quite a trend, diversifying rather than specialising.
I think it’s a reflection of the modern condition, you know? And it can go either way, good or bad. You can apply it to other aspects of society. People don’t work at the same company forever and ever anymore. People tend to not be married from 18 till they’re dead; people don’t do that. It’s simply a reflection of the fragmented nature of modern society.

And, you know, everyone is exposed to so many different things and there’s less opportunity in music, maybe now, because there’s more of it. So you’re not going to be sitting there casting arrows at the flaming target of gold, at the one thing, forever and ever. You’re more just going to satisfy your curiosity about things because there isn’t as much illusion and glamour anymore, maybe.

You could say that same thing about the way that people read or listen to music. Once you’d buy a record and listen to that all the way through. Now you listen to an iPod on shuffle, or you read half an article on the Internet, rather than a whole book.
Some do. It would be a lie to say we weren’t aware of a lot more things than people used to be but that doesn’t mean the involvement is less sincere. It’s just a different way of working. I guess it’s postmodern.

That’s your explanation as to why diversifying is not terrible, so why do you regret it?
I was just kidding. I don’t regret anything. I was going to say something about people doing things for less. I don’t think that they care less, I think people have been enabled. DIY culture has existed to such an extent that people feel that they can take on whatever they want and that they can make it their own. I think that’s healthy. Obviously, it results in a lot of dilettante shit but it also results in dilettante gold, like our work.

I guess you used to have to spend time finding information, whereas now you can find it instantly.
That’s certainly true but I think the time you’re spending now is in filtering rather than searching. You have so much information but you have to filter heavily because most of it’s garbage. People still need to spend time but it’s just a different strategy now.

There’s also still a lot of stuff that’s lost because of the Internet. If you’re using it as a primary resource then you disregard anything that isn’t on there.
I think dignity is the thing that’s lost the most.

Do you feel like you’ve lost your dignity?
No because I’m not on the Internet as much as some. But if you’re in rock n roll that’s the first thing you give up. You know, when you get your rock n roll license the payment is dignity. You’ve got to renew it every so often by humiliating yourself.


Lace Curtain’s Falling/Running EP is out through Mexican Summer.


Summer Flake – Where Do I Go? (Cassette)

summerflakeAn exercise in divine despondence, Summer Flake’s Where Do I Go? is one for the brokenhearted. A cracked portrait of a daydream written and recorded by veteran musician, Steph Crase, it’s the second solo EP of introspective melodies from the ex-Batrider, Birth Glow and No Through Road performer. As a core player in what you could loosely call an Adelaide ‘sound’ – listless and disheveled guitar music from the city’s slacker community of the past decade – her EP comes across accordingly. A sense of place is unmistakable, not least because Batrider’s Sarah Chadwick contributes the artwork and No Through Road’s Matt Banham lends vocals to ‘Race Car’, a song credited to Birth Glow. In fact, Crase’s very pseudonym, Summer Flake, is a moniker used along with Ellen Carey’s ‘Raven Blue Winter’ and Nick Carey’s ‘Dried up Leaf’ during the dusty hallucinations of the aforementioned band.

What exactly a Summer Flake is, is anyone’s guess and also beyond the point. Because whether it stands for doomed snow, an absentminded sunbather or, more likely, a meaningless combination of words, there’s certainly a funny, nonsensical quality to Crase’s lyrical and melodic stream of consciousness, however downbeat and self-deprecating. Presumably, the recording process has evolved from last year’s self-titled EP -assembled piece by piece and cobbled together on cracked software -even if the magic still happened at home. But then, it feels as if the very essence of Summer Flake comes from a comfort zone given to inducing the kind of ennui that late nights alone at home only can.

It’s a record that meanders along a flowing, searching guitar line, culminating in an almost wordless final track ‘Through the Window’, with its evocative echoes of dreamy first light. Presenting a cosy contemplation no doubt specific to a physical and emotional isolation and boredom, Where Do I Go? is a languorous trundle along distant vocals and instrumental echo. Even before hearing the undulating rhythms of songs, like ‘Talked Me Round’ and ‘Known All Along’, there’s a sense of someone coming to terms with regret and being dealt a dud hand, which can only be remedied by a sense of self, reflected in the persistent mantra of “I will never give up” in ‘Racecar’.

That’s because Crase is sincere, not as some kind of reaction to the vapid contempt of modern culture but because, musically at least, she always has been. And for that Where Do I Go? is a welcome escape into the wistful romance of music as it should be; a clarity of mind that leaves behind a residue, not so much of hopeless gloom but of a mute melancholy that found peace in a song.

Label: Heavy Lows
Release Date: January 2013


Nuclear Family: UV Race Interviewed

uvrace1Think of a synonym for imbecility and The UV Race have probably been called it. Building on a crudely constructed mythology, based somewhere among ugly drawings and terrible haircuts, their howling art punk thrives on chaos and absurdity. These are qualities the band display in heaps as they channel Lobby Lloyde in the demented psychedelia of lyrically gross ‘Raw Balls’ and the jerky farmyard onomatopoeia of ‘I’m a Pig’.

Accordingly, vocalist and centre of attention Marcus Rechsteiner has a sense of humour about him. He’d have to, to let the “idiot savant punk rock” and “avant tard” descriptors roll by, especially considering he works with people with disabilities and has learning problems of his own. But it only means Marcus speaks his mind and sees things differently from other people, which is part of what makes him and Melbourne-based six-piece of (mostly) tertiary-educated oddballs so special.

Presented as a clan of friends who couldn’t give a toss about playing the Big Day Out and who lend their tunes to pornography, The UV Race are more concerned with creating art and having fun than subscribing to any preconceived notions of propriety and/or conventionality. That’s probably why Marcus eulogises the ostensible dirtbag who leaves his wife and kids to live in a playground of ‘Life Park’ and concedes to wanting to “drop a bomb” on traditional domestic life in ‘Nuclear Family’. Needless to say, he doesn’t really relate to his mum or his sisters, with their kids, spouses and mortgages, even if they are “pretty respectable human beings.” Instead, he opts for an album cover photo taken outside the MCG (“of all places”) and celebrates the lot of the outsider with his other misfit friends.

In fact, guitarist and childhood chum Al Montfort is singing the lyrics to ‘Bad Egg’ –a song about a drug dealing teen mum and her good-for-nothing boyfriend –as I’m ambushed by the whole of the UV Race in saxophone player Georgia Rose’s lounge room. She’s the one with the video chat and there’s much to celebrate as Al has just come back from India and Marcus has had a three-dollar haircut (on a trip to South East Asia). Following a warm greeting, and a query as to whether it’s the “red hair” of a non-band member present that’s made me want to switch rooms, its Marcus alone who enlightens me on the impetus of the UV Race, in all its erudite foolishness.

Were you and Al quite unique in high school?
I was a bit of a freak in high school. Al was pretty funny. He had originally lived in the city so he was a bit more cultured than most of us in Warragul [laughs]. He was a fair bit into punk music and stuff, where nobody else really cared about it.

Do you think he had a lot to do with how you turned out?
Yeah. I would never have been in the UV Race if it wasn’t for him. For me to get that opportunity was probably through knowing Al but the actions and behaviours are just myself. Nobody can control that.

Where do you think you’d be if not for Al?
I don’t know. Probably still in Warragul not expressing myself.

There seem to be some pretty existential themes and astute social observations running through your lyrics…
Yeah. It’s just about my experiences of life. I try as much as possible to do a stream-of-consciousness so I just write what I feel. Usually I’m pissed off about something at that time, or happy about something at that time, or upset about a girl or whatever it is. That’ll be the start of the song, then try and find the music that suits the tone of the song.

You know how you say you’ve got bad social skills? What do you mean by that?
I have a learning disorder where verbally I’m very strong but visually my brain isn’t strong. So I think about things that a lot of other people don’t think about. That’s why I like rhyming words because that’s how I get my interaction. Where someone can maybe sit down for a day and just read a book and not talk to anybody, I have to talk to people. I’m always remembering things. I’ll remember things that my friends have told me 10 years ago and they’ll only remember when I basically give them the exact details and they’re like, ‘yeah that did happen but I totally forgot about that’. My brain is more focussed on words and that’s where my writing comes from.

Does that mean you don’t recognise visual cues like body language?
Body language, what’s appropriate to say, that kind of stuff.

Do you often feel like an outsider then?
It just takes a long time for people to realise that I’m not being mean or nasty, just clumsy. It takes longer for people that spend time with me to realise that I’m harmless.


‘Nasty’ in what way?
Oh, I’ll just ask inappropriate questions and not realise that they’re inappropriate. And not reading body language, so if someone’s tired or cranky I keep on asking them a million questions until they have to basically tell me to shut up.

I read an interview where you talked about your dad passing away a few years ago and how the band helped you through it. Is that song ‘I Hate You’ about that?
No not really. It’s about my mum.

I’d interpreted it as you saying you hated what had happened.
I tried to write a song about my dad passing away but I haven’t been able to. With that song, it was more about my mum trying to get me to conform. You know, with my crazy haircuts, she didn’t like them, the way I dress… She was brought up pretty proper. She went to a school that was run by nuns and stuff. So for me to not shave for a while or wear crappy clothes, she’s always like, ‘I don’t know how you turned out this way.’ So I’m like, ‘how did you create me? How do you come from your parents when you’re so opposite to them?’

‘Memenonome’ doesn’t have anything to do with the word menemone does it?
No, not really. Dan [Stewart, drummer] really wanted to do a chant and he came up with that. It’s quite funny, Larry [Hardy] from In the Red Records, who put out both Homo and Racism, he’s got a friend in LA that’s a photographer. Basically he works on porn movies and he’s a porn photographer… erotic photo… man. He takes videos of his photo shoots and he put one of the songs from Homo on one of his videos. It’s not that crazy, a bit of boobs and bumb and stuff. The next one, he just made another one –you can look it up, it it’s like ‘Dave Naz, Kristina Rose’ or something. It’s pretty hilarious. They put that to ‘Memenonome’ and it’s a whole bondage thing, it’s pretty crazy. I’ll email you the link but it’s pretty graphic so make sure you’re alone when you watch it.

Can you explain the album title to me?
It was originally to do with Rich [Stanley, of Aarght! Records, Ooga Boogas], who put out our first seven-inch. He started calling us racists.

Are you?
It’s a joke. He was just making a joke.  He’s a really nice guy and I think it just caught on and other people started using it. We already had Homo, so I think it was just a progression from Homo to Racism; words that have turned into bad words, I guess.

Hasn’t racism always been a bad word?
Yeah [laughs] but it’s a lot harder to defend racism than it is to defend ‘homo’ standing for homosapiens. But by just saying the word on the record, people still think about it, I guess. We’re not racists.

There’s a lot of talk about how educated the people in the band are. Do you think a punk ethos and scholarship can be at odds?
I’m the only one that hasn’t been tertiary-educated so I can’t really comment on that. But, no, I think it’s more about informing yourself. It would be silly to do all these political protests and all this stuff and not want to learn more; just do what everybody else says or what the Socialist Alliance says. I find educating yourself is a good way of doing it. I know Al studied politics and and anthropology, so you learn how the world operates a bit more.

Maybe it’s a bit different these days where people have a bit more opportunity to study than punk in its infancy.
Yeah, I don’t know. I find the word punk to be void, pretty much. I don’t really find it that useful. It’s a contradiction already; it’s about people not following things but because they’re in punk, they’re following something. I’ve never really said we’re a punk band. We might make punk music but it’s all about being creative and expressing ourselves. We’re all really close friends so it’s about us travelling together, having good times and having fun on the road.

What would you call yourselves if you had to?
‘Music makers’… I don’t know, friends making music, basically.  A lot of people struggle with putting us into a genre and I don’t really put us in a genre. Sometimes I would call us ‘proto punk’ but that’s about it.

Who came up with ‘idiot savant punk’?
That was Aarght!, our record label. ‘Avant tard’, or whatever it’s called; ‘idiot savant punk’. I’ve been called an idiot savant before.

What does that mean?
It’s kind of like an idiot genius.

Like autistic?
Yeah, kind of, like someone that’s that left-of-field that it’s crazy. A lot of people have a certain way of thinking and because they don’t think that way other people see them as geniuses. It’s interesting.

That’s quite an apt description of your lyrics.
 Yeah, it’s definitely not normal.


UV Race’s Racism is out now through In The Red.


Melodie Nelson – To The Dollhouse (LP)

melodienelsonI was tempted to write To The Dollhouse off as nothing more than a mundane reproduction of analogue nostalgia circa Holly Golightly and Fabienne Del Sol. One of them references a fictional female icon of the ’60s. The other imitates music from a period and a country she wasn’t born into. Both are a bit boring. But then Melodie Nelson (aka Lia Tsamoglou) is different. Her heroine is the underage girl-child that Serge Gainsbourg leches over in his acclaimed concept-album Histoire de Melody Nelson; her influences ranging from famous fiddler Roman Polanski to feminist symbol Virginia Woolf.

Tsamoglou’s eclectic, technicolour 2011 album, Meditations on the Sun, represented ideas you could probably put down to an end-of-the-decade throwback to a simpler time. Yet, recorded in a matter of months after her debut and released not even a year later, To The Dollhouse is its darker, more complicated cousin. There’s the masochistic housewife swooning over the psychotic organ twirl of ‘Martha’ (“he strangled me inside the bedroom”) and the deceptively cheery implications of a conversely drunken ballad to dead-eyed seduction in album opener ‘Cherry Cherry’.

That’s because ‘seedy’ and ‘suburbia’ didn’t always come hand-in-hand; at least, not explicitly. So Tsamoglou has taken it upon herself to draw out the shade beneath the illusion of domestic harmony. It’s as if she’s focussing in and expanding on the darkness of, say, Peggy Lee’s bleak existential crisis in ‘Is that All There is?’ or the perverse implications of Marilyn Monroe’s sexualised rendition of Julie London’s ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy’. There’s certainly a thematic thread following a corrupted ideal of femininity, focussed on stolen youth and spoiled beauty in To The Dollhouse. The murderous title-track and album closer (an unmistakable reference to Woolf novel To The Lighthouse and parallel to the broken innocence of ‘Cherry Cherry’) is rife with twisted innuendo as Tsamoglou croons, “he reaches down with heavy arms to take her,” over a pause in languorous guitar rhythm.

‘666’ is the evil side of a Hazelwood and Sinatra duet as a brooding bass line carries a Tsamoglou and Geoffrey O’Connor’s doomed romance through the motions, while it doesn’t take a genius to read the innuendo of ‘Take Me For A Ride’ –bumping tempo or not. Because depending on where you’re standing, To The Dollhouse could either be a twisted, distorted portrait of the past from the perspective of the present, or the clearest representation of the attitudes and ideas that stuck from a time best forgotten.

Label: Broken Stone Records
Release date: November 2012


UV Race – Racism (LP)

uvracisHere are a couple of dilemmas to consider when engaging with, and inevitably embracing UV Race. One is finding a way to describe the Melbourne six-piece as ‘shambolic’ without actually using the word. Another is mentioning vocalist Marcus Rechsteiner’s regional origins without sounding repetitive. Because, for anyone taking even a cursory interest in the chaotic art punk outfit, you’ll doubtless have heard it all before: an eccentric front man from a backwater Victorian town taken to disrobing on stage, while flanked by his motley troupe of musicians and artists, more concerned with their output than its quality. But beneath the obnoxious mess of folly and toilet humour is a powerful sense of compassion based around some astute, though plainly expressed social observations.

At times, Marcus doesn’t even bother finishing his sentences on record while moaning over the hulking clatter of guitars and minimal drumming, “’Went and saw your friends. I told them it had end” in the clumsy heartbreak of ‘Sophie Says’. He even manages to articulate the distribution of power in said relationship in two short sentences: “We were walking. You were talking.” Sure, Marcus doesn’t exactly elaborate on why it is he wants to “take a shit” on the familial unit in ‘Nuclear Family’ but, for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider, you could probably appreciate the sentiment. And how exactly the title Racism, relates to the album’s songs is anyone’s guess, except that it builds on the band’s love of the odd portmanteau by expanding it from its root to include ‘UV Racism’.

In fact, it’s probably just referencing the band’s positioning as social outcasts, while investing uncanny warmth in their portrayal of their kindred suburban lowlifes. Think about the dude who abandons his wife and kids to live out his days in a public playground in ‘Life Park’. Because let’s face it, he sounds like a bit of an arsehole, but here UV Race celebrate this self-elected return to paradise over a trundling bass line and a rolling keyboard melody, as Marcus sings “I’ve got everything I need”. Then there’s the pre-emptive defence of the guy who sings about his mullet and hemorrhoids in the fittingly vulgar ‘Raw Balls’, as the whole crew holler “oink, oink, oink, oink, oink, oink, oink, OOINK!!!” in the thrusting blitz of ‘I’m a Pig’.

As a band whose power hinges on a considered musical ineptitude, the UV Race’s third album is rife with glimmers of the band’s actual skill levels, but in slicing through the woozy affirmation of ‘Be Yourself’ by a buzzing guitar line, all that really matters is the metaphorical group hug that is this collective sing-a-long. Because as they advance into a diversified sound, from the twinkling chamber pop of ‘Gypsy King’ to the droning build-up of album closer ‘Memenonome’, the UV Race’s main concern is presenting an affectionate tribute to scumbags everywhere in their own brilliant and utterly shameless way.

Label: In The Red
Release date: November 2012